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posted 29 Apr 2013, 20:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Apr 2013, 21:23 ]



The National Workers Union salutes the world working class movement on the celebration of May 1st, International Workers Day.

ay Day is celebrated by workers all over the world and has been celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago for decades. Many workers are not aware of the history of the labour movement as most of it is not taught in our schools and the little that finds its way into the class rooms is totally distorted.

since the development of capitalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, workers have been struggling to improve their conditions of life through combining in unions. A major focus of the struggles of workers has been to reduce the length of the working day. In those days workers used to work sixteen hours per day and through a series of bitter struggles they were able to reduce the working day to ten ho

In the 1850’s Australian workers set the objective of an eight hour workday declaring eight hours for work; eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest. This slogan became popular throughout the international labour movement

In 1884, the U.S. Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions declared that from May 1st, 1886, an eight hour workday would be the full and legal workday for all U.S. workers. Of course the capitalists did not comply

On May 1st, 1886, hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the USA came out into the streets in a general strike to force the bosses to implement the eight-hour working day. On May 3 the Chicago police opened fire on unarmed striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works, killing six workers and wounding untold numbers.

On May 4, the International Working Peoples' Association organized a rally at Haymarket Square to protest the continuing police brutality against striking workers. Armed police attacked the workers. Many workers were killed and seven policemen. Eight activists were arrested on charges of "inciting riot" and murder. Four of them: Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fisher were executed.

In July 1889 the International Congress of Paris adopted May 1st as the Interna
tional Socialist holiday to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs. On May 1st 1890 mass demonstrations and strikes were held throughout the world, wherever the workers movement was organised.

The workers put forward demands for an 8 hour working day, better health conditions, for social legislation, for equal suffrage for men and women, for greater political and industrial freedom and better conditions of livelihood and as a protest against militarism and war. Workers throughout the world began to celebrate May 1st as a day of international workers solidarity and continue to do so.

During the 1950’s and sixties in Trinidad and Tobago, the then expanding trade union movement celebrated May 1st with huge demonstrations and rallies, but since the early seventies when the PNM government removed holiday status from May Day it went into decline but did not die. Over the last few years, May 1st has assumed greater importance as a day of significance for the working class movement and is once more celebrated with a demonstration through the streets.

June 19th commemorates the anti-colonial uprising which gave rise to the trade union movement in Trinidad and Tobago and May Day commemorates the international nature of the workers movement


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Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)

Gerry Kangalee,
29 Apr 2013, 20:01